I’ll start with a bit of background. I’m not sure anybody in their right mind goes to Somalia these days. Mogadishu hasn’t had a real government going on 15 years now, and the country is probably the largest breeding ground of terrorists outside of Iraq…or was that Afghanistan Nope, it’s Somalia. Anyways…back in “the day” Somalia was two countries – British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland. They were merged, and an independent Somalia was born…which didn’t last long. About 12 years ago, the western part (former British Somaliland) left Somalia, and has been relatively quiet, peaceful, and stable ever since. Their own government, currency (as you saw in my previous post), border guards, and all. Unfortunately, however, the international community isn’t buying it…and still considers it part of Somalia. For someone trying to visit Somalia, what better way to go!
I’ve already posted about our hotel…but when we got there, they informed us that all rooms had only one bed, and thus we needed, of course…two rooms. Fortunately, we got two across the hall and solved that problem. They were decent, functional, and since it was almost noon….we decided to grab some lunch in the hotel restaurant while the hotel sorted out the day trip we’d requested. So first, lunch! There were two things on the menu in Somaliland we hadn’t had yet…and we were determined to have them! The first was camel (which we had as a steak at dinner…and was pretty awesome!) and the other was goat. Soon our goat stew arrived, and it was actually really tasty and one of the best meals I remember from the trip!
So there was another reason we waited and had lunch – you can’t just “go” on a day trip in Somalia…you need permission. Armed escorts, etc. While we were eating, the hotel was busy getting all of this sorted…and after just under two hours we were set. We had something passing for a truck/SUV, two armed Somali military escorts, and a driver. We were off for the nearly two hour drive to the cave paintings at Laas Gaal which are thought to be over 10,000 years old. The trip was worth it just to get out of the city, and to see the countryside…it was absolutely fascinating! Plus…who doesn’t want to be in an SUV with two qat-chewing soldiers with loaded weapons, pointing them all over they place while they are stoned out of their minds on the local narcotic? It was an amazing experience, and one I won’t soon forget. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t let us take pictures with them. Once we got to Laas Gaal it was maybe a 15 minute walk to the top and the cave art was amazing:
After taking time to see the cave art, it was just fascinating to take some pictures of the Somali countryside from this fantastic vantage point:
The drive back was a bit quicker, but more entertaining…since we had to drive the “curator” of the Laas Gaal site back to the town so he didn’t have to walk the nearly 5km over dirt roads after he closed the “gate” – gate being used very loosely. Somalia isn’t exactly a place where rules and infrastructure have too much meaning. I don’t know how much of what we paid for the tour went to central sources, but I’m hoping most of it went to the people who helped us…the soldiers, the driver, the local guide…the people who made it a meaningful experience.
Now completely high on qat, the soldiers seemed completely spaced out for the drive back and the trip was pretty quick. We got back right after sunset…just in time for a bit of internet time at the hotel (surprisingly, Somali internet is of a functional speed!) and then dinner int he hotel restaurant. After the sun had set it got cold really quickly, and the only indoor seating they had was in the “private room” which was basically a giant round table in a hut that could have fit 6-8 people easily. Since this is the only hotel of 2 star or more standard in the area, we were wondering where the other guests were. Seems, according to the waiter, that most people just eat in their room.
I will say, the hotel had great food. We split a camel steak for dinner which was delicious, and had more of the goat stew. It wasn’t quite as good as at lunch, but still really tasty. Some ice cream rounded off the meal and the only thing missing was…a bottle of wine! Unsurprisingly, Somalia is COMPLETELY dry, meaning there’s no alcohol at all unless you’re connected and have sources…which we obviously didn’t have for this one night!
Dinner over, we did a bit of movie watching (Hotel Rwanda again – had to see it after staying at the hotel a few days prior) and crashed early, because we wanted to see more of the city before our big adventure LEAVING Somalia the next day!
I am so in awe of your travels. Fabulous.
And the cave paintings gave me the shivers. Stunning.